|Parents and Learning (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 36 p.)|
Programmes to teach parents to enhance the home environment in ways that benefit their childrens learning take a variety of forms and may produce substantial outcomes.
Parent education includes home visits by parent educators, group sessions led by previously trained parents, and workshops and courses taught by experts. The home-visit model is typically directed at parents of pre-school children and includes explanations of the childs developmental stage and examples of appropriate parent-child activities. Parent group sessions enable parents to learn in a small-group setting, carry out activities with their children between sessions, and discuss their experience with other parents. When led by other parents rather than teachers or experts, these parent groups are collegial and non-threatening. Workshops and courses conducted by experts - educators, psychologists or paediatricians, for example - have the advantage of research-based content and access to professional knowledge. Research shows that programmes that teach mothers to improve the quality of cognitive stimulation and verbal interaction produce immediate effects on the childs intellectual development. When parents learn systems for monitoring and guiding their childrens out-of-school time, the children do better in school. Schools that teach parents ways to reinforce school learning at home find that students are more motivated to learn and attend school more regularly. Parent education programmes enhance teacher/parent communication and the attitude of parents toward the school. Efforts to encourage family reading activities result in the childrens improved reading skills and interest in reading. Programmes that include both parents and children are more effective than programmes that deal with only the parents. Home-visit programmes are most effective when combined with group meetings with other parents.
The obstacles to school-sponsored parent education can be daunting. Some parents are not receptive to the good intentions of parent education providers and recruiting participants for parent education programmes can be a frustrating process. Teachers usually have quite enough to do caring for their students, working with parents can be seen as an added burden. So the twin problems of parent education are (a) providing personnel to organize and deliver the parent education programmes, and (b) attracting parents to the programmes.
Home-visit models are labour-intensive and therefore expensive. But because they are directed at the parents of pre-school children, they have the advantage of a parent clientele that is very receptive to parent education. Taking the programme to the parents at their home makes home visits convenient for parents, places the education in the natural setting of the home, and enables the parent educator to focus on one family at a time.
Small-group sessions led by previously trained parents are inexpensive, encourage parental attachment to the school and allow parents to share experiences and assist one another. On the other hand, attracting parents to sessions offered outside the home requires substantial attention to recruitment.
Strategies for schools and teachers:
· Partner with other organizations that can affect parenting in the pre-school years through home visits and other efforts paediatricians, public health community organizations and churches, for example
· Make a specific list of what the school wants from parents according to the age group of the child then organize parent education around this list
· Publish, inform monitor support and assist with homework policies
· Use parents to organize recruit and lead other parents
· Consider field-tested proven models and curricula
· Focus on the curriculum of the home
Clarke-Stewart & Apfel (1978); Becher (1984); Epstein (1987); Gray & Wandersman (1980); Rich (1985); Walberg & Wallace (1992); Wallace & Walberg (1991)